U.S. stocks traded narrowly higher Tuesday following news of explosions in Belgium’s capital that killed more than two dozen people at the airport and metro system.
The Nasdaq composite held higher in afternoon trade as Apple gained about 1 percent and the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) traded more than 2 percent higher.
The S&P 500 came off session lows to attempt gains as health care led advancers. The Dow Jones industrial average held about 20 points higher in afternoon trade, erasing earlier losses, with UnitedHealth Group contributing the most gains.
“I think people who need to allocate to equities are doing it regardless of news and people who don’t need to allocate are just sitting on their hands,” Ilya Feygin, managing director and senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital, said, noting light trade volume.
“Everyone’s trying to very thematically attack those spots that are directly exposed,” he said.
The Dow transports underperformed in afternoon trade, off more than half a percent with Union Pacific and Delta Air Lines trading about 2 percent lower or more to lead decliners. Avis Budget, Norfolk Southern and JetBlue were among the few advancers.
“The tragedy just reminds us we’re living in a dangerous world. … As we start the day out we know we’re going to be under pressure,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
“We’ve got a market that’s focused on the human side versus the economic side, which is the right thing to do,” he said, noting a flight to safety with the U.S. dollar index and gold higher, and Treasury yields and stock index futures lower.
European stocks came off session lows to close mixed, with the German DAX closing 0.4 percent higher and the STOXX Europe 600 off 0.15 percent lower.
“I think we’re just following Europe, which closed well off their lows. … If they’re shrugging it off, we’re shrugging it off,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. If Europe closed up, why shouldn’t we? That’s the mentality.”
“U.S. stocks are positioned to pull back this morning on the back of weakness in Europe. Initial intraday support is about 20 points below current levels for the S&P futures, heightening downside risk for today/tomorrow,” Katie Stockton, BTIG Chief Technical Strategist, said in a report. She also noted concern about a significant loss of momentum that would prompt overbought sell signals.
Dow futures were about 60 points lower, above session lows, ahead of the U.S. market open.
Oil struggled for gains in choppy trade, with U.S. crude oil futures mostly lower near $41.35 a barrel and brent higher around $41.75 a barrel. Earlier, WTI hit a new 2016 high of $41.90 a barrel.
Treasury yields were lower, with the 2-year yield at 0.86 percent and the 10-year yield at 1.90 percent as of 1:16 p.m. ET.
The U.S. dollar index traded about 0.36 percent higher, with the euro near $1.1211 and the yen at 112.06 yen against the greenback. Sterling held above session lows after hitting a low of $1.4216 against the dollar, its lowest since March 16.
Asian stocks were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 up nearly 2 percent and the Shanghai Composite about 0.6 percent lower.
In U.S. economic news, domestic home prices rose 0.5 percent in January on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous month, according to FHFA. House prices were up 6.0 percent from January 2015 to January 2016.
Markit’s flash U.S. manufacturing PMI was 51.4.
The Richmond Fed manufacturing index rose in March to 22, the highest since April 2010.
Fed speakers due to speak Tuesday include Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker.
“After a week like last week where you had three central bank meetings and quadruple witching, there’s really not a whole lot going on this week with Good Friday and Easter being off,” said Peter Coleman, head trader at Convergex. “It’s not a dramatic move here.”
U.S. stocks squeezed out gains on Monday with the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 ending at their highest levels of 2016. As of the close, trade volume across exchanges was on pace for its lowest since Dec. 31.
Markets are closed Friday for Good Friday.
“In general, unless something happens, we’re still in an uptrend, end of quarter uptrend,” Coleman said.
In afternoon trade, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points, or 0.06 percent, at 17,634, with Pfizer leading advancers and Goldman Sachs the greatest laggard.
Nike struggled for gains ahead of its earnings report, scheduled for after the close.
The S&P 500 gained 3 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,054, with health care leading five sectors higher and consumer staples the greatest decliner.
The Nasdaq composite rose 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,829.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded below 14.
Advancers were a touch ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 377 million and a composite volume of about 1.8 billion in afternoon trade.
U.S. crude oil futures for May delivery declined 15 cents to $41.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold futures for April delivery gained $4.70 to $1,248.90 an ounce as of 1:24 p.m. ET.